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Serving Two Masters

Serving Two Masters: Moravian Brethren in Germany and North Carolina, 1727-1801

Elisabeth W. Sommer
Copyright Date: 2000
Pages: 288
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt130jqcd
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  • Book Info
    Serving Two Masters
    Book Description:

    The eighteenth century was a time of significant change in the perception of marriage and family relations, the emphasis of reason over revelation, and the spread of political consciousness. The Unity of the Brethren, known in America as Moravians, experienced the resulting tensions firsthand as they organized their protective religious settlements in Germany. A group of the Brethren who later settled in Salem, North Carolina, experienced the stresses of cultural and generational conflict when its younger members came to think of themselves as Americans.

    The Moravians who first immigrated to America actively maintained their connections to those who remained in Europe and gave them the authority for deciding religious, social, and governmental issues. But, as the children born in Salem became acclimated to more freedoms, particularly in the wake of the American Revolution, a series of disputes intensified the problems of transatlantic governance. While the group's leadership usually associated Enlightenment principles with rebellion and religious skepticism, the younger Brethren were drawn to its message of individual autonomy and creative expression.

    Elisabeth Sommer traces the impact of this generational and cultural change among Moravians on both sides of the Atlantic and examines the resulting debate over the definition of freedom and faith.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-5723-8
    Subjects: History, Religion

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. ii-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. viii-viii)
  4. Preface: Searching for the American Freedom
    (pp. ix-xviii)
  5. Introduction: In the Beginning
    (pp. 1-9)

    The Moravian Brethren, who are known in Europe as the Renewed Unity of the Brethren, first settled on the estate of Count Nicholas Ludwig von Zinzendorf in Upper Lusatia in eastern Saxony in 1722. They began as a gathering of peasant and artisan exiles from Bohemia and Moravia. The 1720s and 1730s saw the formation of a community, the internal regulations of which, ideally at least, centered on establishing a simple, Christlike pattern of life. During the 1730s and 1740s, the number of people attracted to life with the Brethren grew and came to include a number of nobles. By...

  6. 1 Forming the Ideal: The Development of the Ortsgemeine
    (pp. 10-32)

    While the village community of early modern Europe was to some extent a religious community, its secular aspects—financial and political—and Zinzendorf’s concept of the ideal for Christian living—“to live right godly”—would appear to clash. In the formulation of the MoravianGemeine, most especially of theOrtsgemeine, however, they became closely intertwined. Although the ground for this development was clearly prepared in the statutes signed in 1727, the concept of theOrtsgemeinedid not reach full bloom until the 1740s and 1750s. These years also saw the foundation and development of the majority of the German settlements....

  7. 2 Order in the Wilderness: The Planting of the Ideal
    (pp. 33-58)

    Looking at the development of the concept of theOrtsgemeineand of Unity government provides a basic picture of the blend of secular and sacred that characterized this early modern community. It also underscores the Germanic and feudal heritage of these settlements that ultimately spread outside of the European continent. The ideal dynamics of theOrtsgemeineare more fully revealed, however, by a portrait of an individual settlement. The ordinances that governed theGemeinewere identical for the most part, and they all shared the same rhythm of devotion. Thus, a study of the structure of one settlement can help...

  8. 3 Battling Chaos: Discipline and Declension in the Ortsgemeine
    (pp. 59-85)

    The Brethren built theirOrtsgemeineon high ideals and surrounded it with a wall of discipline and devotion intended to protect it from the world and from human weakness. To create an ideal for Christian living is one thing; to maintain it is quite another. As the massive research on the Puritans has shown, passing on a way of life and a mind-set based on religious faith poses a serious problem. To retain the next generation, the faith must adapt; the “halfway covenant” of the Puritans is an example of this. At the same time, adaption can and often does...

  9. 4 Gambling with God: Revelation, Reason, and the Use of the Lot
    (pp. 86-109)

    Over the course of the late eighteenth century, no practice generated more discussion and debate among the Brethren than did the use of the lot. In many ways, these discussions encapsulated the challenges posed by the nature of theOrtsgemeineas a baptized town and the impact of cultural and intellectual developments. The extensive use of the lot in decision making marks the Moravian Brethren as peculiar in eighteenth-century Europe. Their belief that the lot represented the true will of Christ stands at odds with a century that had inherited a changing worldview in which a strong confidence in the...

  10. 5 Testing Authority and Defining Freedom: A Tale of Two Continents
    (pp. 110-139)

    In 1818, the Pennsylvania delegates to the synod of that year made a speech in which they laid out all the various privileges and freedoms accorded to the American male citizen. “The effect of all this,” they maintained, made it impossible to continue to impose the use of the marriage lot on the American Brethren.¹ This was a clear call from the local leadership for an official recognition of American distinction. As we have seen, the European and the AmericanGemeinenexperienced severe challenges to theGemeineideal in the late eighteenth century, and earlier protests over the marriage lot...

  11. 6 Hands across the Water: The Challenges of a Transatlantic Relationship
    (pp. 140-170)

    By the end of the eighteenth century, some inhabitants of Salem viewed the AmericanGemeinenas significantly distinct from their European counterparts. In effect, the protests of the American Brethren that peaked in 1818 over the issue of the marriage lot called for a type of independence from the standards imposed by the central ruling body in Germany. It appears that by the late eighteenth century, the “private” members of the SalemGemeinewere pulling away from their German roots, while the leadership on both sides of the Atlantic sought to shore up the spiritual and cultural bridge that connected...

  12. Epilogue: The Shattering of the Ideal
    (pp. 171-174)

    Although the Synod of 1801 changed little in the ideal to which the Brethren were held, the Synod of 1818 allowed for some significant alterations. In effect, this synod officially recognized the drive toward greater individual autonomy evident among the North Carolina Brethren in the 1780s and 1790s. In doing so, the synod brought to the surface similar dissatisfactions among the German Brethren. The American Brethren, however, took the lead in promoting change.

    In preparation for this synod, the American Brethren in Pennsylvania and in North Carolina drew up a list of their primary concerns. This list dramatically illustrates the...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 175-212)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 213-222)
  15. Index
    (pp. 223-236)